Inclement Weather Update (Click post for more info)

God’s Gracious Gifts Equip Us For Intimacy

God’s Gracious Gifts Equip Us For Intimacy

Sermon Transcript

Sinful worldviews tempt believers and unbelievers to sinful living.  For example, the party spirit, which embraces the evil triad of sex, drugs, and rock and roll, lures both kinds of people into its trap.  Those ensnared by this thinking conclude that life is all about living for the next wild week, lowering your inhibitions, and doing crazy, even morally questionable things.

When Liz and I first moved to Dallas to attend seminary, she took a job at a local dental office.  It didn’t take her long to strike up a great friendship with a young lady we’ll call Carly.  Before working at the dental office, Carly was a Dallas Cowboy cheerleader.  We quickly learned from watching her lifestyle that she still enjoyed the wild, wicked lifestyle that came with this last job.  She lived with her boyfriend, and they couldn’t wait for the next party together.

One night sitting with her on the couch, she said, “Marty, can I talk to you about my life?” “Sure,” I responded.  I quickly discovered she had previously walked closely with Christ for many years. Still, she eventually threw this intimate relationship to the wind when she joined the cheerleading squad of all squads.  Realizing she had professed faith in Christ as her Savior, which is the basis of salvation (John 3:16; 5:24-25), I moved from speaking to her as a non-Christian to addressing her as a wayward sister in Christ.  By the end of our “counseling session” on the couch, she had repented of her contrary ways and expressed her desire to get back into a rich fellowship with her Lord.

What had happened to Carly before this? The peer pressure brought on by a false worldview had tripped her up in her faith walk.  She hadn’t lost her salvation, but she had lost that joy she once possessed knowing Jesus and modeling her life after His.  Walking out of our humble apartment that evening, she had a new spring in her step and a broad smile because she knew the Lord had forgiven and restored her as His child.  Now, she just needed to know Him again at a deeper, more mature level.

Is Carly’s story your story?  Have you walked away from the faith of your father and mother? Have you permitted false thinking, be what it may, to compromise and tarnish your faith and faith walk? Have you, like Carly, listened to all the wrong people for far too long?  If so, it’s time to come back to Jesus. How do you do that? John gives us wonderful and helpful insight into answering these questions in verses twelve through seventeen of chapter two of his first letter to struggling churches in Asia Minor.  Your way back to rich fellowship starts with understanding and applying the main motif of these timeless verses:

God’s Gracious Gifts Equip Us For Intimacy (1 John 2:12-17)

You Have The Gift Of Forgiveness (1 John 2:12)

Although John doesn’t come right out and tell us what the Revisionists, or false teachers, taught in these churches, we can well imagine what he wrote about.  Verse 12 is a case in point.

12 I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for His name's sake.

Calling the saints in these churches “little children” came naturally to the ninety-plus-year-old disciple and shepherd of Jesus.  It’s a term he wove through his book because he saw these struggling saints as his spiritual children (1 John 2:1, 28; 3:18; 4:4; 5:21).

            Why did John write?  Did he write to give these proofs of salvation? No.  He wrote to stress how erroneous teaching negatively impacts a saint’s fellowship with the Lord (1 John 1:3-4).  Gnostic teachers, who taught they had the esoteric inside track on spiritual knowledge, caused these believers to question whether they were even saved. To be a Gnostic meant you possessed the tactualknowledg,e whicledad to a relationship with God.  Those who didn’t embrace their “enlightened” teaching, which praised the inner man while denigrating the outer man, the flesh, were left thinking their faith was vacuous.

            Their faith, however, wasn’t a pipe dream, according to John.  Their sins were forgiven.  The Greek verb here is aphiemi (ἀφέωνται).  Lexically, Danker and Bauer give us the possible connotations of this word:

ἀφίημι (

① to dismiss or release someone or someth. from a place or one’s presence

ⓐ w. personal obj. let go, send away (X., Cyr. 1, 2, 8; Polyb. 33, 1, 6; Tob 10:5; Sir 27:19; Jos., Ant. 16, 135 τ. ἐκκλησίαν) crowds Mt 13:36; Mk 4:36; 8:13 (mng. 3a is also prob.).

ⓑ w. impers. obj. give up, emit obj. τὸ πνεῦμα give up one’s spirit Mt 27:50 (cp. ἀ. τ. ψυχήν Hdt. 4, 190 and oft. in Gk. lit.; Gen 35:18; 1 Esdr 4:21; Jos., Ant. 1, 218; 14, 369 al.).

ⓒ in a legal sense divorce γυναῖκα (Hdt. 5, 39) 1 Cor 7:11ff.—Lit.—LEpstein, Marriage Law in the Bible and the Talmud ’42; MHumbert, Le remariage à Rome ’72; CPréaux, in La Femme I, ’79, 161–65 [Hellen. period]; JMurphy-O’Connor, JBL 100, ’81, ’601–6; JMoiser, JSNT 18, ’83, 103–22.

② to release from legal or moral obligation or consequence, cancel, remit, pardon τὸ δάνειον the loanMt 18:27 (OGI 90, 12; PGrenf I, 26, 9; Dt 15:2). ὀφειλήν a debt vs. 32 (cp. 1 Macc 15:8 πᾶν ὀφείλημα βασιλικὸν ἀ.). Also of remission of the guilt (debt) of sin (Hdt. 6, 30 ἀπῆκέ τʼ ἂν αὐτῷ τὴν αἰτίην; 8, 140, 2; Lysias 20, 34 ἀφιέντας τ. τῶν πατέρων ἁμαρτίας; Herodas 5, 26 ἄφες μοι τὴν ἁμαρτίην ταύτην; 38, 72f; 1 Macc 13:39.

③ to move away, w. implication of causing a separation, leave, depart from

ⓐ lit. of pers. or physical things as obj. (PGrenf I, 1, 16; BGU 814, 16; 18) Mt 4:11; 8:15; 26:44; Mk 1:20, 31; 12:12; Lk 4:39. The spirit left the possessed man 9:42 D; abandon (Soph., Phil. 486; Hyperid. 5, 32; X., Hell. 6, 4, 5) Mt 26:56; Mk 14:50.—W. impers. obj. (PFay 112, 13; Jer 12:7; Eccl 10:4; 1 Esdr 4:50): J 10:12; house Mk 13:34; cp. Mt 23:38; Lk 13:35 (Diod S 17, 41, 7:[1]

At the moment of faith, what does God do? He forgives all of your sin: past, present, and future. The perfect passive nature of this verb powerfully emphasizes this truth insofar as a perfect tense denotes a past action with a lasting, uninterrupted result. In contrast, the passive voice underscores how the subject, viz, you, the repentant sinner, are forgiven by an outside source, viz., God. True, the perfect tense doesn’t by itself highlight the eternal nature of this forgiveness. Still, its use is instructive, for if classified as an intensive perfect, it does stress the results of a past action resulting in a present condition.[2]

Jesus employed this interesting verb in his Parable of the Unforgiving Debtor in Mattew. 18.  According to the story, a king, viz., Jesus, came back to settle accounts with his servants.  When he demanded 10,000 talents from one, which amounted to several million dollars in our currency, the servant, who couldn’t pay the massive amount, fell at his feet, begging for forgiveness.  In verse 27, the King turned and did the unimaginable and merciful:

27 And the lord of that slave felt compassion and released him and forgave him the debt (Matt. 18).

The verb “released” here is aphiemi ( Matthew 18:27 Σπλαγχνισθεὶς δὲ ὁ κύριος τοῦ δούλου ἐκείνου ἀπέλυσεν αὐτὸν καὶ τὸ δάνειον ἀφῆκεν αὐτῷ ). When you, like the servant, came to King Jesus with a debt of sin you couldn’t pay and asked for forgiveness and mercy, He instantly released you from your dire spiritual situation because He is the only One equipped to do so based on His redemptive work on the cross (1 Cor. 15:3; Gal. 1:3; 1 Pet. 2:23-24).

Drifting into erroneous thinking, like so many saints in the New Testament did (can you say, Corinthians?), can lead you into sinful activity, resulting in the Devil attacking the truth so foundational to your faith walk: the fact you are saved.  You’ve probably heard his raspy, rude voice in your head a time or two, “Look, there is no way you of all people are saved.  After all, look at what you are doing and permitting in your life.”  I’m sure Carly heard this condemning voice more than once. Your intimate fellowship with Jesus is trashed and tarnished when you start believing his propaganda, leaving you hopeless and despairing.

What is John’s solution to this devilish tactic?  To remind the people in these various churches they were saved the precise moment they placed their faith in the person and work of Jesus. And He saved them because His very name or His character was (and is) wedded to His promise to forgive sinners and adopt them into His heavenly family as sons and daughters (Rom. 8:15, 23).  Forgiveness is a gift Jesus gave you when you came to Him years ago in faith.  Don’t let the Adversary cloud your thinking with false teaching and erroneous thinking.  If you permit him to do this, your fellowship and intimacy with Jesus will suffer; however, if you will remember who you are as a child of God, then you, like Carly, won’t waste a moment falling at His feet seeking cleansing (1 John 1:9) and restoration.  He will give you both because His character is directly wedded to Him, fulfilling everything He promised you.

In addition to this, please realize a second divine gift:

You Have The Gift of Knowledge (1 John 2:13-14)

What knowledge are we privy to as saints?  Read on, and let’s see:

13 I am writing to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I have written to you, children, because you know the Father. 14 I have written to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.

Before we address the nature of the knowledge John speaks about here, we need to clear up who he is talking to.

Biblical scholars and commentators do not agree with the three terms John uses to describe believers in these churches: little children, fathers, and young men.  Some take these terms as three stages of spiritual development. “Little children” denote new believers, “young men” represent saints who’ve been believed for a good number of years, while the term “fathers” supposedly speaks of older, more mature believers.

I don’t hold to this view because of several reasons. First, if John spoke about spiritual developmental stages, why did he invert “fathers” and “young men”?  Logically, the “young men” stage should come before the “father” stage, correct? Second, all through the book, he calls the believers “children” (1 John 2:1, 28; 3:18; 4:4; 5:21), denoting a developmental stage is not present. Third, how could we ever say only “young men” in the faith, spiritual teenagers as it were, are the only ones who have the power to overcome the Devil’s exploits? Spiritual victory comes to all saints who desire to live by the Spirit and yield to His leadership (Gal. 5:16-26).  Therefore, these endearing terms ar just that: endearing terms the old man, John, employed when he spoke to Christians he knew and loved.

Now, back to the text and question at hand.  What knowledge has God given to us, His children? Two kinds.

One, God gives His saints knowledge of His person.

13 I am writing to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I have written to you, children, because you know the Father. 14 I have written to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.

The twice repeated prepositional phrase “from the beginning” can readily point to either the eternality of the Father or the Son, Jesus.  If Jesus is in view here, John stresses how these believers knew from the outset he was none other than the eternal God, the deity in the flesh, as prophesied (Isa. 7:14; Micah 5:1-2), and as He claimed, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am” (John 8:58), and as He demonstrated in His miraculous works, “11 Believe Me that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me; otherwise believe on account of the works themselves” (John 14).  Only God could have performed the miracles Jesus pulled off effortlessly . . .  and lovingly.  Jesus was no diluted form of God, as pushed by the Revisionists, nor was he a man who just happened to have the divine spirit descend on at His baptism either.  He was very God of very God.  Paul was spot on when he identified Jesus to the believers in Colossae, a city in the Asia Minor region, with these jaw-dropping words:

8 See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ. 9For in Him all the fulness of Deity dwells in bodily form, . . . (Col. 2).

Christ’s identity doesn’t get any clearer than this.

You, too, understood who Jesus was and is, when you came to Him in faith.  He wasn’t a great guru or a great prophet in a line of prophets, nor was he just a fantastic reformer within Judaism.  No, you looked at data points in general and special revelation and determined Jesus was the eternal God.  The complex cosmos's mere cause and effect nature pointed you to God because you realized there has to be Someone greater than the chain of cause/effect to get it going in the first place.  Enter Jesus, the great “I Am” inside and outside of all time and space.  He is the uncaused cause of all which exists.  The cosmos we see was and is only a potential creation that couldn’t have caused itself.  Causation had to be started by One who is pure actuality with no potentiality whatsoever.  Again, logical thinking embedded into the warp and woof of the intricate cosmos naturally leads us to the feet of Jesus, the “I Am.” As Paul observes about Jesus:

 16 For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities-- all things have been created by Him and for Him. 17 And He is before all things, and in Him, all things hold together (Col. 1).

Since a cause is ontologically before an effect, and nothing can be before itself, there had to be a “First, Unactualized Actualizer that has no potentiality in its being, which is Pure Actuality” (Thomas Aquinas, ST, 1a.2.3). This is, of course, none of other than Jesus (Heb. 1:3-4).  Both general revelation and special revelation helped to identify Him clearly to you.

Pragmatically, what is so powerful about this concept?  Knowing the eternality of Jesus, by definition, humbles you, doesn’t it?  Think about it.  He who existed before time, who according to the unknown author of Hebrews “framed the ages,” or started the unfolding nature of temporal periods (Heb. 1:2), saw your sin predicament you couldn’t get out of on your efforts. Hence, He came to be your sin substitute, your perfect and holy sacrifice on the cross. He did the unthinkable by leaving the glory of heaven to take on sin and Satan so sinners, like you and I, could have the opportunity to become saints. And what’s more, He came not only to give us a new spiritual position but to welcome us into a new relationship where He, the great “I AM,” wants to know us as we draw close to Him.  Jaw-dropping, isn’t it?  What believer doesn’t want to draw near to this Savior?

Second, God gives us knowledge of His provision.

13 I am writing to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I have written to you, children, because you know the Father. 14 I have written to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.

Provision for what? Victory over the Devil and his strategies to shipwreck, sideline, hamstring, or dilute your faith in the eternal Savior.  How do you gain success when the Devil brings his minions to bear on your life?  You defeat him as Jesus did when tempted in the wilderness. Your knowledge of God’s living and power, the Bible, is more than the old Serpent can handle (Matt. 4).

  • When your way is dark, and you don’t know what you should do, the Bible is your lamp and light (Psalm 119:105, 130).
  • When you are spiritually hungry for truth as a new Christian, the Bible is like milk (1 Cor. 3:1-3; Heb. 5:11-13).
  • When surrounded by a culture steeped in false thinking and wicked living, the Bible is like a consuming fire (Jere. 5:14).
  • When teachers convince you are not all that bad, the Bible is a mirror to show you your actual standing before God (James 1:23-25).
  • When life drags your soul and spirits down, the Bible brings encouragement (Rom. 15:4).
  • When my relativistic world leaves me wondering what constitutes truth, the Bible guides you (Psalm 119:35).

And so on.

As in John’s day, where many philosophies and worldviews vied for the attention of believers, our day is just as confusing.  We have our share of Gnostics who permit the mind to create reality in their minds while downplaying cold, hard empirical, and logical facts.  Men can have babies, they say, and if you don’t support the mantra, you are evil, hateful, bigoted, and many other names.  Should I embrace their viewpoint for societal peace, asks the believer. No, says reason, medicine, and the very Word of God, which tells us how God personally makes each one of us in the womb (Psalm 139).  As in John’s day, the same old sins still plague us: lust, greed, covetousness, lying, anger, addictions, etc. How do we gain victory over sins, be what they may, so our intimate relationship flourishes?  We stay in the Word of God so we know what constitutes sin so we can move away from it.  Are you in the Word?  Better yet, is the Word of God in you? This book is God’s gift, and it is a gift that keeps giving as you keep it front and center in your life.

A third and final gift God has given us to keep our fellowship with Him in a growth mode is presented in the all too familiar final verses of this pericope.

You Have The Gift of Revelation (1 John 2:15-17)

God’s revelation concerns how to live versus how you shouldn’t live.  Sin always muddies the waters of your life, leaving you wondering if you are headed in the right direction or not.  And since sin distorts and blinds, we are prone to think we are living as we should when we couldn’t be more wrong.

God enters our confusion and gives us words designed to move us away from that which compromises our fellowship with Him.  He starts with a revelatory rule:

15 Do not love the world, nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

The opening command is a negative particle wedded to a present-tense imperative. Had this command been a negative particle wedded to an aorist tense, it would have prohibited an action that had not yet occurred (Luke 10:4; Matt. 10:9; Acts 7:60).[3] The current grammatical construction, however, forbids an action in progress.[4] We could, therefore, translate the verse like this: Stop loving the world and the things in the world.”  Is it possible for a Christian to do this? Just delve into Christ’s analysis of the spiritual condition of the seven churches in Asia Minor in Revelation chapters two through three, and you will quickly arrive at an affirmative answer.  When a saint’s life reveals they are in love with the things of the world, God’s love doesn’t reside in him. This doesn’t mean the person isn’t saved, just out of fellowship with the Father. PutCould you put it in earthly terms? If your child goes off the moral rails, does it mean they are not your child? No. They are still your child; however, your love isn’t present insofar as you disapprove of what they are doing (drugs, alcohol, sexual promiscuity, etc.).

When we love the wicked things of the world, our intimacy with Jesus is compromised by default.  So, you have to stop and ask yourself a penetrating, discomforting question: Where is my life too much in love with what the world deems important?

The Holy Spirit, who inspired John’s writing, gives us all the reasons we need for moving away from worldly things in the closing two verses:

 16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God abides forever.

Three perpetual problem points are highlighted here.  Are you listening and learning?

“The lust of the flesh” speaks of any illicit sex God does not condone.  Do you have any sexual compromises in your life? If so, you need to repent of it, for it is destroying your relationship with Christ. The phrase also denotes any physical excesses.  Food is excellent, but gluttony is sin. One drink of wine might taste great, but having three or four screwdrivers a couple of times a week is a problem.  Taking a prescribed pain killer is one thing.  Living on them when you don’t need them is another thing. Do you have any excessive cravings that pull you into a life of excesses?  That is called “the lust of the flesh,” and a maturing believer keeps it in check by yielding to the Spirit (Gal. 5) and employing God’s Word.

“The lust of the eyes” speaks of craving what you see but is out of bounds for you.  It could be another man’s wife, a person of the same sex, a car beyond your pay grade, or clothes you don’t have the money for.  But, oh, you don’t think you can live if you don’t have the correct logos on your clothes and gear.  A young couple had Liz and me over for dinner at our first church in Arizona.  We thought they just wanted to get to know us as the new pastoral staff at the church. It didn’t take long to figure out they were Amway people.  Posters of fancy cars and mansions adorned the walls of their humble apartment.  “What’s up with the posters” I innocently asked. His reply was enlightening, “We keep these up on the walls to remind us of what we want to do with the money we will make with Amway.”  Hummmmm.  I couldn’t help but wonder if this young couple has a lust problem with their eyes.  Do you, is the question.

“The boastful pride of life” speaks of arrogance and pretentiousness, or the love of being showy with what you know, have accomplished, can do, or own.  Have you noticed how people talk about where they went to school?  “I was educated at Yale.”  If someone has only finished two years at a junior college, they immediately get apologetic, don’t they? “Well, you see, man, like I’m working my plan, of course. I’m saving a little money getting this two-year degree, but then I’m heading to a big-name school to finish off my degree.”  Sure. It sounds like pride is a problem.  Who really cares where to school in the scope of time and the transitory nature of things?

Who cares what purse you have on your arm?  A young lady at a small country grocery store in South Carolina inadvertently grabbed my attention one day as she rang up my groceries. A new Coach purse was sitting out in full view for everyone to see.  I’m sure that bag cost way more than she could afford, but a bold statement was made.  Again, in light of the transitory nature of life, who cares what purse you can “afford,” how many square feet your house is, whether you drive a BMW or a Jaguar, what titles you have after your name, or how many people report to you?

What is essential in life?  John tells us:

but the one who does the will of God abides forever.

And what is God’s will?  That you obey Him, know Him, live for Him, and place a premium value on all those things the Bible says are eternal instead of all the temporal trinkets of this old, sinful world.

It’s time to come clean so that you can grow up spiritually, wouldn’t you say?

                  [1]William Arndt et al., A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 156.

                  [2]Daniel Wallace, Greek Graamar and Syntax, Unpublished Class Notes (Dallas: Dallas Theological Seminary, 1980), 194.

                  [3] H. E. Dana and Julius Mantey, A Manual Grammar of the New Testament (Toronto: The Macmillan Company, 1955), 300).

                  [4]Ibid., 301.